Chrysler recently announced a small update for the 2011 Town & Country, and —predictably—Dodge’s Grand Caravan will mirror its sibling’s changes. For 2011, the Grand Caravan will receive a new crosshair front grille and a more sculpted front fascia. Around back are a redesigned bumper and a liftgate sporting sharper creases and new lettering.
Like the Town & Country—and most other Chrysler products—the Grand Caravan receives the new 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine. It’s tuned for 283 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, more power than was offered by the 3.3-, 3.8-, and 4.0-liter sixes that it replaces in the engine lineup. The only transmission choice is a six-speed automatic with a “Fuel Economizer” button that adjusts shift timing for reduced fuel consumption.
Also aiding fuel economy are a half-inch reduction in the van’s ride height, lower-rolling-resistance tires, and a drag-reducing roof spoiler. Dodge hasn’t completed official EPA testing, but expects fuel economy will match or exceed the 16–17-mpg city and 23–25-mpg highway ratings of the previous engines even though the new V-6 is more powerful.
Dodge says that extensive upgrades to the Grand Caravan’s suspension will improve ride comfort, steering feel, and handling. The changes encompass everything from new bushings and dampers to revised spring rates and retuned steering gear.
The cabin has been refreshed with a two-dial instrument cluster and smoother integration of the climate-control buttons and vents into the dashboard. The seats and door trim are said to be more comfortable and softer than before, and the Stow ‘n Go seats are larger, with new one-touch operation. New optional toys include a heated steering wheel, a driver’s knee airbag, and a larger center console with blue-green trim lighting. The aptly named Safety Sphere package bundles a backup camera, parking sensors, and a blind-spot warning system with rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights.
The 2011 Dodge Grand Caravan reaches dealerships later this year. Per Dodge’s absurd new naming convention, the base model will be the Express trim level. Above that will sit the Mainstreet, with the Crew at the top of the line. They will be joined in spring 2011 by the Grand Caravan R/T, which Dodge dubs “the ultimate Man Van” and promises will offer a sportier driving experience. Despite the macho hyperbole, we were told the R/T is aimed at male and female drivers who drove sports cars before they had kids. We’ll reserve judgment on its sporting abilities until we get behind the wheel, but we wish “Man Van” was the official name of the trim level. It’s not like it’s any dorkier than Grand Caravan Mainstreet.
Thanks to: Car and Driver